Interview “Pigments could act as sustainable energy sources”

17. March 2022 | Markets & Companies

We spoke to Özlem Ünlü Isık, Head of R&D Lab – Automotive Coatings at Kansai Altan, about current pigment market trends and pigment functionalities regarding automotive coatings.

What trends will influence the pigment market for automotive coatings?

Özlem Ünlü Isık: Global trends such as resource saving, digitalization, electric vehicles, climate change, and even the pandemic situation are influencing the pigment market and color trends in a certain direction.

Products offered by the automotive industry often have – somewhat – similar designs. Surveys show that one of the main criteria for consumers is individuality. Considering recent technological developments and the speed of changing color trends, it would not be surprising in the future to instantly change the color of the pigments on a vehicle by simply pressing a button and choosing any color across a wide range of spectra. As color and appearance are fundamental elements of perceived quality; unique color design is crucial to serve individuality. Styling departments, pigment and paint producers are constantly cooperating to find the optimal colors that attract attention, resulting in high consumer demand.

Effect pigments are among the main components of individuality and differentiated appearance. The automotive industry benefits from the superior properties of effect pigments that provide vivid chromaticity through the expansion of color and appearance space, such as colored metallic, high-glitter, and high-interference pigments. Brilliance and good covering power have acquired significant importance for effect pigments. One of the main challenges in the color expectation of individuality is covering power, while mechanical performance is optimized through pigmentation level and film thickness. Higher pigmentation levels can often lead to mechanical and cohesive failures. Therefore, higher hiding power at lower pigmentation and lower film thicknesses would lead to lower paint and energy consumption.

On the other hand, slim and compact designs, urban mobility and carpooling are influencing color trends towards a more conventional neutral direction and a natural palette.

Autonomous driving with the expected results of flexibility, travel safety, driving comfort and efficiency has inevitable impacts on the technology of pigments to be chosen in the long term. Autonomous cars communicate with their environment through RADAR-LiDAR systems. Therefore, the selection of pigments can influence the signal transmission of vehicles and the signal reflection of objects in the surroundings.

For low VOC and high solids paints, the particle size, morphology and surface treatment of organic pigments need to be improved. The crystalline and molecular design of organic pigments should be well studied. Easily dispersible universal high performance pigments will be highly appreciated by paint producers. The grinding of the pigments will be simplified if this type of pigments is marketed.

Do you expect demand for new pigment functionalities?

Özlem Ünlü Isık: There is an increase in demand for pigments with functional benefits. Energy harvesting from any coated surface provides an alternative energy source. Pigments could act as sustainable energy sources. Pigment particles to be excited by solar radiation can be used in conductive resins to generate electricity.

Paint formulations benefit from the barrier effects of pigments for various isolation purposes. Cool colors with minimal IR absorption are preferred to reduce heat island impacts and save energy. Additionally, better UV resistant pigments that will protect the polymer from degradation are needed for longer term protection of exterior surfaces.

It is expected that the growing demand for car sharing will require superior chemical resistance for interior coatings. Surface-treated effect pigments will serve to increase the expected chemical resistance.

These answers are part of a longer article which can be found in the European Coatings Journal 03/2021. The number is available digitally in our 360° online library.

Rosemary C. Kearney